Colloquium: Utopian Visions
Essay One: Utopia
M Sep 8 bring to class four copies of a complete draft
M Sep 15 paper 1 due
In formulating a topic and generating an initial, preliminary draft, review your notes on the text (and in the text), and think about aspects of the book that you found striking, puzzling, or otherwise resonant. That is, I recommend the inductive method: start with concrete particulars, the words on the page.
In accounting for the significance of these elements of the text, consider the relation between Books One and Two, or, more generally, between the critiques that Utopia presents of sixteenth-century England and Europe, and the philosophical state on the island of Utopia as a response to these critiques.
You might explore the text's assumptions about economic systems, legal structures, government, leadership, religious doctrines and practices, gender relations, or other matters of concern.
Review the text, noting and explaining significant details. Then think about what you have found and reorganize (and where necessary cut and develop) your discussion to support a thesis that analyzes how the text says what it says, does what it does to the reader, or means what it means.
In this first paper, your purpose is to read and think carefully about an aspect of More’s Utopia and its political, social, or cultural implications.
Your readers, you should assume, have read the text, but they haven’t read it with the same questions in mind that you have, so they will most certainly expect you to provide examples from the texts and to give them a little context for remembering the place of those examples. Help your readers out by being careful, if you quote directly from the text, to explain what the quotation is meant to point to or argue or support. Tell your readers where they may read an example you’ve referred to in the original themselves, by putting page numbers in parentheses directly following.
Because you are writing an essay, there is no set organization, but you should certainly have an introduction and a conclusion! Between them you’ll organize your material to make the best case. Often writers want to move from the most obvious example to one that would have been harder to see if a pattern weren’t already in place. Or they move from least important to most important. Or one point really depends on a previous one and must, therefore, follow it. Once you’ve decided what your arguments are, you can best decide what order they belong in.
For this essay, support should probably come entirely from the primary text. Quote sparingly, but refer to passages in the text through summary or paraphrase and cite the page numbers in parentheses. If you do consult other sources, you must cite them as well. For practice, please provide full bibliographical citations for Utopia and for any other sources you draw on in MLA style at the end of your paper. You may refer to Hacker for the form.
The English editing conventions for this essay are those of the scholarly world: you should write in a human voice (think of you at your best here!), but a scholarly human written voice. That means precise diction, carefully formed sentences, and no errors in grammar, punctuation, mechanics, or spelling. It is wise to get in the habit now of using a header for your first initial, last name, and page number. Do not produce a separate title page. Put your name, the course name, and the date top left; center the title (same font as the rest of the paper) below that; skip two lines, and let the essay follow (double-space your pages and leave 1” margins all round).
Here are some possible topics.
What is the role of pride in Utopia (the book), and how does Utopia (the state) try to obviate the development of pride in its citizens?
How do the Utopians understand the relation between virtue and happiness, and how does the text of Utopia invite readers to assess this understanding?
To what extent is Utopia a “philosophical state” (2) and to what extent a religious state? How are reason and religion related in Utopia and Utopia?
How does Utopia (and how does Utopia) balance economic equality and patriarchal authority?
To what extent is the reader meant to take Raphael Hythloday as a reliable informant? How can we tell?
Feel free to formulate a different topic, but if you do so, be sure to email me your topic question by Saturday at 5 pm <fmichel>.
You will discuss your work in progress at two different points. You will meet with either Writing Consultant Megan Zane( <mzane> )or Prof. Michel (x6389, <fmichel>) at least once in the preparation of the essay.
On the 8th, bring four (4) copies of a full first draft (1000 words) to class. You will exchange drafts with classmates and give thoughtful feedback to one another.
Your revised draft will be due at the beginning of class on the 15th. You must attach to this draft the copies of your previous draft and your class reviewers’ comments.
You will also need to submit your essay electronically to Turnitin , class id# 2364372
Excellent papers will have an engaging thesis, will not only notice textual details but also consider their meaning, and will reflect their writer’s attempt to get beyond “this is what I’ve always known and thought” reasoning. They will be persuasive partly because their examples are well chosen and well explained, and also because they are organized in a compelling sequence. They will use words carefully. They may even craft sentences elegantly!
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